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This Week in BMC Cancer: Feb 15, 2011

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In BMC Cancer this week, researchers in Washington and Tennessee evaluated the effects of HER expression on protein secretions in human epithelial mammary cells after the HER1 receptors are activated. Using an ELISA microarray platform, the researchers found that differential expression of HER2 and HER3 receptors "altered the secretion of a variety of growth factors, cytokines, and proteases." The result suggest that "HER over-expression orchestrates broad changes in the tumor microenvironment by altering the secretion of a diverse variety of biologically active proteins," the team concludes.

Also in BMC Cancer this week, a team of researchers in Sweden identified epigenetically regulated genes that predict patient outcome in neuroblastoma cases. The researchers treated four neuroblastoma cells lines with a demethylating agent, and analyzed the expression using whole-genome expression arrays. "We present eight genes (KRT19, PRKCDBP, SCNN1A, POU2F2, TGFBI, COL1A2, DHRS3 and DUSP23) that are methylated in neuroblastoma, most of them not previously reported as such, some of which also distinguish between biological subsets of neuroblastoma tumors," the team writes. "In our study, a low methylation frequency of SCNN1A, PRKCDBP, and KRT19 is significantly associated with favorable outcome in neuroblastoma." The results could have implications for future patient therapy protocols, the researchers add.

Researchers from the University of Tokyo suggest that a patient's circulating lymphocyte count can help determine the effectiveness of preoperative radiotherapy for advanced rectal cancer. Kitayama et al. retrospectively examined hemoglobin and white blood cell levels in 179 cases with advance rectal cancer, as well as platelets and white blood cells before and after radiotherapy, and found that "the ratio of lymphocytes in WBC taken before RT was significantly greater in 15 [complete response] cases as compared with those in non-CR cases." Therefore, patients with high lymphocyte percentages — 25.7 percent or above — had better treatment outcomes.

And finally in BMC Cancer this week, researchers in Germany present their intention for Phase I of the PROMETHEUS-01 trial, a study evaluating the effectiveness of carbon ion radiotherapy in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma. Treatments for this disease are limited, the researchers write, and while radiation therapy is an alternative, high local doses are needed for long-term control of the disease. Carbon ions, however, offer an alternative to photons without the same potential for damage to normal tissue. In the study's first phase carbon ion radiotherapy will be evaluated in hepatocellular carcinoma patients to determine the optimal dose, the researchers write. "Primary endpoint is toxicity, secondary endpoint is progression-free survival and response," they add.

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